Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Libyan blogging scene: Reflections on 2008 and The Highlander Award for Excellence

First of all Happy New Hijri (Islamic) Year 1430!

I have not been blogging as much as I had planned too. Also it's been the year where many of the Libyan bloggers contracted the Libyan Disappearing Syndrome ™ Chris in Manitoba :P

In fact back in October I wanted to write a longer post about this phenomenon but only managed this brief mention.

Many bloggers have not updated for months and others for over a year. We can see this in Khalid's very convenient aggregator called All Libyan Blogs.

There are also some blogs who have become 'open to invited readers only', so only a few enjoy the bloggers wit, which is as good as being closed anyway. Some bloggers have deleted their blog. Others have requested not to be linked to anymore.

I know and understand that it is the blogger's personal choice, this is their space and that sometimes life interacts with the best plans. Yet I still feel saddened when one part of the mosaic is missing.It means to me that one conversation that could enrichthe rest of the world about us Libyans is missing. It also means we are not able to keep in touch. And yes I do miss each blogger. One more thing is that we have all linked to each other and when the blog is unavailable the link and hence a good story is irrevocably gone.

I liked A. Akak's gesture, he has gracefully bowed out of the scene last month without burning bridges and has left his blog for us to peruse and check fond memories. Miss you.

Still all in all, Libyan bloggers have had many adventures and new experiences, some have gotten married, engaged, graduated, had children, moved abroad to study, moved our emotions for a cause, others have gone through heartbreak, lost loved ones or have fallen ill. They have all kept us riveted to their story.

I have lived to see a rise in blogging physicians and interns from Libya. They are keeping the tradition alive along with the older iconic generation.

I'm especially proud of the Libyan bloggers who are making the effort to write in English which is not their mother tongue and which they they only studied at the public school in Libya (I have yet to see a foreigner of non Asian origin blogging in Arabic :P ).

The end of 2008 and specifically the Internet cut ten days ago, has witnessed a resurgence of Libyan posts. As if we needed to feel the web slipping to be jolted back from our lethargy. Some of us made a spectacular comeback after being MIA for a over a year. A big welcome back to Romana and Lost Libyan, superb posts both of you.

To compensate for not doing the monthly roundups that I used to enjoy mulling over the last couple of years, I started my Libyan blogs competition last year calling it the Highlander Award for Excellence ( how corny is that eh ?). You can check last year's results here.

So the top Libyan bloggers for 2008 according to Highlander are:

(1) Anglo Libyan, he has been blogging non-stop, thru thick and thin even when the global economic crisis affected him on a personal basis and he was made redundant. He has kept his humour and civility and entertained us all. Good luck job hunting Anglo.

(2) Enlightened Spirit, who is now blogging from the US while she is doing postgraduate studies in medicine. I loved her spirited posts ( pun intended) and how she presents herself honestly and with no affectation.

(3) The Dregias, who warmly share their home and life with us and who have magnificently navigated through a 2008 which was full of blessings and pain.

(4) Khalidjorni, who is a genius at bringing out controversial stories on Libya

(5) PH, who is a genius at bringing out Western political controversial stories, and then follows with a joke in the next post to lighten the mood.

(6) Lebeeya, whom we sadly cannot read for the moment but who guarantees a good laugh each time she posts. Lebeeya expert at multitasking, handling a successful career, top notch postgraduate studies, a life full of fun and activities and still managing to share all her passion with us. She was last officially seen at the hairdresser and we miss her very much.

The top adopted Libyan for this year remains Ibeebarbie. ... While Khadijateri is runner up for the cute cameos about her life in Libya, but also the innovative approach to show us the negative aspects about Libyans.

From the non Libyan blogosphere my favourites are: (1) the Angry Arab, especially now that his comment section is closed and we can actually enjoy his posts without the rubbish that some commenters were posting. (2) Kabobfest and (3)Global Voices.

The Top Highlander fan for 2008 was Mitchell who has unfortunately deleted his blog.

On the personal side I have managed to meet some more bloggers this year, Libyan, Arab and foreign and the experience was refreshing. If I have not met you yet, then be patient it will come slowly but surely. I have been guilty of commenting very little; I don't really have an excuse, but I do hope to be forgiven because I have read all your posts :)
On the other hand I think I need to read more blogs in Arabic, the talent is palpable and I have no excuse at all.

I don't promise to be going back to the roaring blogging days of 2006 [that is over] but I promise to keep blogging.

Many emailed to ask where are my political blogs, didn't I care about Palestine or Iraq? Where are my opinions about the West etc.. I still have them, it's just that many others are expressing them better than me ... I'm also a bit war weary and need to recharge the batteries.I will get back to more of these type of posts as soon as I'm done with the Libya related ones lined up to be published.

Happy New Year 2009



Friday, December 26, 2008

A very cold spell

"Britain is in the grip of a flu outbreak greater than anything seen in the last eight years, with soaring numbers of people falling ill, new figures show." As soon as my eyes fell on the above sentence I could not help thinking that Britain's case is not an isolated one. The flu outbreak in Libya which started I believe sometime in mid-November is one of the worst I have ever witnessed.

I have no figures from the Secretariat of Health and I have not tried to find any to be honest, also I don't really think it is an epidemic. However, what I know for sure are what are my own eyes are telling me.

(1) At each public or private clinic/hospital I visit, there are rows upon rows of people coughing and sneezing waiting for their turn.
(2) People that have contracted the virus do not recover promptly and it either drags on or they have another cycle of flu with all the associated symptoms.
(3) in most people it no longer stops at the sniffles but it goes on to upper respiratory tract infection ( that's the mildest) if not bronchitis, pneumonia all sorts of breathing difficulties and the famous typical Libyan bujanb (maybe another Libyan blogger could volunteer to explain this term to non-Libyans :P )
(4) The bug it is not discriminating between age groups but school children, the elderly and the immuno-impaired are its earliest victims.
(5) People have been hospitalized and this is unusual as Libyans usually are too 'proud' so accepting to be admitted on the ward means it is serious.
(6) I am one of its victims and have been suffering for over a month now and I know it's bad because I've been privileged not to have caught the flu since 2005.
(7) I have so far bought for our household; prescription and non prescription cough remedies amounting to over 80 Libyan Dinars in addition to 6 types of antibiotics, 3 types of Panadol, Vitamin C effervescent galore.
(8) It had a big impact on schools and businesses
(9) I'm contemplating taking a flu shot next season even though I'm not convinced they are effective.
(10) Egypt recently had one more bird flu related death so could we be having a mix of both? or have I become paranoid ?

(11) oh and my GP is sick too!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Web, Customer Service and the Importance of Communication

Pretentious title eh? Seriously though, I won't be the first in stating that we don't realise how essential the internet has become until we lose it. Yes internet is a means of communication and Communication in all its forms is vital to convey any message or a specific message....

This weekend (on Friday in this part of the world), I tried to have a little bit of chit-chat with my friends but was surprised that my home network provided a nil result in connectivity. Having installed a fax line on the same morning, I immediately assumed that I must have messed up some of the internal cables.

So I texted my best friend and he phoned me back to say that this was a country wide problem and that I shouldn't worry. It is hoped that things would be back in order in less than a week. Trusting his advice completely I let it go at that; there was no need to become frantic. Que sera sera….

But it got me pondering about all the emails, work, reading and stuff that we do online and how much being in touch with the outside world has had an enormous impact on our lives. A similar technical problem occurred in the region at the beginning of this year anyway and turned out to be related to some 'force majeure' type of infrastructure accident; then things got back to normal.

I was optimistic that internet being so important for business and since Libya was increasingly business oriented then the people at LTT would find a quick way to reroute the connection even if temporarily. I was not expecting a prompt resolution as it was Friday and they probably were working with a skeleton staff on weekends.

At around midnight both Libyana and Madar customers received a text message in which the "General Authority for Telecom was informing us that there are problems in international communication and the WWW due to a number of severed submarine cables in the Mediterranean basin and that the workers in the telecom sector were doing their best to provide alternative solutions to restore communication". I was actually impressed when I received this message. To me it meant that the people at the Libyan PTT and LTT were really trying to find a solution. This also scored an additional point for customer service delivery; even though I did wish they had sent that country-wide cellphone message in English as well for the non- Arab community in Libya. I'm sure it would have prevented wild speculations among foreigners and jumping to conclusion that "life in the third world sucks sometimes" as Khadijateri puts it.

LTT do have a message to customers in English on their website (not sure when did they put it up ) though and their website was one of the few still accessible on Friday.

"Libya Telecom and Technology would like to inform its customers that the problems in the internet connection are a result of main communication cable problems, which has affected the entire Mediterranean region. Our Employees are giving their best efforts to return service through alternative networks."

It came as no surprise that internet connectivity was restored yesterday morning (i.e. in less than 24hrs) even though it was considerably slower. Today the connection is faster than dial-up but slower than our usual ADSL - which is to be expected due to congestion in traffic. I mean "major damage to the internet backbone can cause major problems despite redundancy which allows some re-routing. The loss of so much bandwidth is likely to have an impact".

Kudos to the Libya team for delivering on their promise (whatever way they managed to do it, via satellite or even if it meant making the necessary phone calls at least we are back online).

Tarek Siala has noted the same thing " ولكن الذي أعجبني وأثار إهتمامي هو قدرة شركة ليبيا للإتصالات والتقنية على إعادة الإنترنت في ثاني يوم (السبت) مباشرة، فبينما لازالت بقية الدول" تعاني من إنقطاع الإنترنت، كانت الإنترنت متوفرة في ليبيا،

This BBC article shed some additional light on the issue."We've lost three out of four lines. If the fourth cable breaks, we're looking at a total blackout in the Middle East". Then later in the day many specialised websites brought it up. Basically 4 lines are damaged; damage is usually due to ships' anchors and seismic activity. There are 3 lines damaged near Alexandria and one off Sicily. There was also suspected seismic activity around Malta.

Three out of four is a major problem, and as Libya is also linked through this cable that comes from Italy we have been affected. Moreover, newswebsites are not obliged to list ALL the countries that are affected, they mostly mention the ones that are more prominent on the business/political map. Case in point for example:"The UAE telecom operator said the damage to three cables resulted in high levels of network congestion and degradation of international voice service and data traffic, affecting all customers in the UAE, Levant, Egypt and parts of Africa." [Gulf News]. But the whole article is worth a read.

From the comment section of the BBC again I can see that this latest of cable cuts has affected the net in various countries as far away as Australia and the US and as near as Malta and the UK. I did not hear the Australians comparing themselves to a third world country.

The following article references a number of such cuts that occurred in several places worldwide. It also shows maps of the fiber optic submarine cable locations and which can potentially affect a country or group of countries or regions. Not one single sentence mentions a third world experience!

It is often said that communication is a powerful tool. I agree 100%, don't you ;)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ten years of LOVE

Holding her to my bosom today, I am surprised to feel each rib sticking out painfully. The vertebral column seems ready to snap. Poor thing, it took 10 years of patiently feeding only to have her loose it all in less than 3 months. Holding her now is breaking my heart but I don’t know what else I can do but hold her to show my love. Every trick has failed, treatments have also failed ....she seems to have decided to fade gracefully and without much fuss.

When I hold her in my arms now, she is lighter than the puppy she was when we first brought her home yet scarily enough she is the same size. It is so sad to see her necklace dangling loose like something that should not be there. But when she looks at me with those soulful eyes I know deep inside she is still the same just very weary and terribly sick.
She comes and snuggles next to me everynight and I have to be careful lest I squash her by mistake.

Why do we always need to loose those we love most? Her life has not been scrape free and she gave me lots of white hairs since the last time here. But I’ve found that cats are very proud animals and like going away with dignity, somehow I've resigned myself to this and at the same time feel guilty about it.

At this rate the end is soon, but a tiny corner of my heart is still hoping that this is but a bad dream as miracles have been known to happen. A pet is also a member of the family... so pray with me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Myriam Makeba: 1932 - 2008

When my parents told me we were going to attend a concert I wasn't really impressed. Usually my siblings and I rarely accompanied them to social/cultural events. (Today's kids would jump at the chance to go to a concert but probably a rock / pop one :P )

So they dragged me a bit reluctantly - I mean I had no idea what kind of legend Makeba was . But from the first beat of the music and when her voice rose through the hall I was under her spell.
Rummaging to our old photo album I found the picture of me sitting in the audience holding my two hands together as if in prayer in total rapture.

It is the Makeba voice which made me love sounds of Africa and it is sad indeed to see that she is no more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where is everyone ?

I've been trying to catch up with some of my favourite Libyan blogs but many are no longer available for reading and others have not been updated for months.

It's funny how you get attached to the personality of a blogger and he/she becomes an important part of your daily reading.

What's up? I miss you all so much :)

Type rest of the post here

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ramadan: body and soul

A.Akak has invited us on his blog to recap the Ramadan experience, and knowing what a blabbermouth I am, it's better to just answer him and elaborate in this page.

From the various comments he received the main points I gleaned were:

(1) Ramadan in a non-Muslim country is difficult and does not have the same taste as back home (but may carry more Ajr because of the effort one is making).
(2) People have become more materialistic in Libya.
(3) Blood has thinned in Libya.

( you are welcome to share your point on all three).

As for my personal Ramadan experience? It is my favourite month of the year and comes exactly at the time you need it. The time you save while you don't have to worry about the other meals during the day is spent usefully catching up on a number of things that you wanted to do including most importantly your faith if you are spiritually inclined.

The number of days is just right, not too much and you are bored and not too little and you don't have the time to settle in.

I love Ramadan in any Muslim majority country but Ramadans are the nicest in Arab countries, call me biased if you wish but that's how I feel most comfortable. However...

if you are fasting with some friends in a foreign land it maybe possible to feel OK as well.

The TV shows are always nice in Ramadan because they are all fresh and it's the season (not sure why it became so but hey I'm not here to dissect that aspect). I also know that the rest of the year they will be rebroadcast. Many bloggers have written about TV in Ramadan in the Arab world, critical, for, indifferent or even advocating a boycott.

Apart from the spirituality, family ties and to do list I usually enjoy watching a few Ramadan shows - not too many as I don't have time for TV, but one or two at most.

Not since " Places in the Heart" in 2005 have I watched a TV show with such interest, I even remember doing a Ramadan TV series post.

This year I've been watching Bab il Harra Part III, I have missed the first two parts in previous Ramadans but I know that there is Bal il Harra fever all over the Arab world. The best description of this series I found was by blogger 'on the edge' :

"My favorite show we watch each night (making Moe translate anything I might miss) is Bab AL Hara . It is about a old town in 1929 Syria .Much like the British soap opera East Enders , it is centered around a neighborhood and it's residences .There is something for everyone ; murder , intrigue against the French colonial government , gun running , romance , neighborhood fights ,deaths , weddings ,family problems that people are still facing today such as spousal abuse , drug addiction , and divorce .The characters are all strong even the women , which I like because they are not wusses ! The men show tender sides which most Arab men try to hide but are known to have now and then , lol .And like I said before , there are many relevant issues featured , that are you still have in this modern life . The show is so popular that it is in Wikpedia ".

In case you are not hooked, MBC channel's website is offering you to watch it online free as well the next day if you missed some episode. I decided to check for myself how this worked and ended up being hooked on my second show for this year the Egyptian soap opera Ba3d il furaq (after the separation). In one week I watched all 19 episodes online then was all caught up with the TV and could follow it daily. Nothing special it's just another romantic story with star crossed childhood sweethearts.

So if you livve in Europe or the US and do not have access to satellite reception you can watch your favourite Ramadan series online here, just let the episode cache then it's cool ! enjoy without the advertisements :)

Tomorrow Monday is the last day of Ramadan in Libya, and since I hardly go out I have no comments about shopping or bad manners that others have experienced.

Though I'm satisfied with my Ramadan, I wish that I had more time to do extra duties for my eternal soul as one never knows when God will take the gift of life he has entrusted to us and I am not 100% sure that I will deserve his heaven and not sure that I will see another Ramadan either. After all we are growing older.

Eid Fitr Mubarak to you all!

Update 30/9/08

I received this cartoon about the Ramadan series in the Arab world - from left to right : Syria, Egypt, Gulf countries :P Enjoy

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Omar Mukhtar and the legacy of colonialism

Web statistics constantly remind me that my Omar Mukhtar and Italian occupation posts remain the main reasons for which people come to my blog.

But just in case I had forgotten, a text message sent by Al Madar company on the eve of this anniversary endeavoured to remind us about this date in history while my youngest brother brought it also to my attention when we were chatting last night... both these instances did not seem like a coincidence especially that I've been trying to ignore recent events related to that painful era...

Omar Mukhtar represents to me and to others Libyans of various generations all what heroism is about. Libyans have not forgotten their martyrs we celebrate each name in our way because their are too many to list. Our heroes are well and alive in the memories of their grandchildren and Omar Mukhtar no longer is famous for himself only but he has come to symbolise the Libyan unsung heroes of the colonial era whom foreigners may not know and for whom a list of names and tribal identities mean nothing. That is why Omar Mukhtar is doubly special.

In 2004 I mentioned the main components of Libya's demands for compensation from Italy, which I am copying again here for easier reference:

a-Italy should acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya
b-Furnish all details about the thousands of Libyans forcibly exiled onto some Italian islands
c-Furnish maps showing where thousands of Italian landmines were laid in Libya
d-Pay full compensation to the families of all victims of Italian terrorism
e-Return all historical treasures and artifacts stolen from Libya

Let's look at what happened to these demands in light of the recent world developments last month.

a-Italy did acknowledge its historical crimes against the people of Libya with some saying that Berlusconi kissed the hands of Omar Mukhtar's son !

b- If someone has read anything about this let me know.

c- The news mention that mine clearing was brought on the table, but I was hoping for some more concrete hard fact like, equipment, expertise, maps and cash. It is worth noting that "according to reports compiled by the Libyan police, 11,845 landmine casualties were recorded between 1940 and 1995, including 6,749 people killed and 5,096 injured" that is a high number for Libya. Bearing in mind the alleged mines planted during the border war with Egypt and Chad (in 1977 and sometime in 80s) it is the WWII legacy which is inflicting the damage and even with maps it is difficult to locate those mines because of the shifting sands.

d- The compensation consists of a total of 5 billion US$ to be paid in investment deals over a period of 25 years. My only comment would be to check here.

e- From all the treasures stolen from Libya one sole statue has finally been returned.

Omar Mukhtar and our grandparents sacrifices have not been in vain, but the farcical compensation is not fooling anyone. A British acquaintance the other day was laughing and saying this is colonialism from a different door - I guess he knew what he was saying after all aren't the Brits the masters in the art of colonialism? The gentleman may not have been far from the truth because "in return for its gesture, Italy expects to reap great rewards, in the form of multi-billion dollar contracts, and tighter security controls over flows of illegal immigrants", but also COMPENSATION for the descendants of the Italian colonialists who have been expelled from Libya!

But I have not written about Sheikh Omar for a while so why now? because by association with Italy's occupation I came across this great article on Hafed's blog from which I have already quote above, whereby one specific paragraph epitomises all what ails the Middle East and North Africa region - better known as the Arab world :P

"A major reason for the mess and mediocrity that define so many Arab-Asian-African countries is their unnatural birth at the hands of retreating European colonial midwives। Because they were manufactured by fleeing European occupiers, many countries in our region have enjoyed neither the logic of a sensible balance among natural and human resources, nor the compensatory vitality that comes from self-determinant and truly sovereign states."

This is a powerful statement! Look at us in Libya we are still affected by colonialism decades after Omar's death, imagine the compounded effect in the other countries ? It does not mean we should take that as an excuse not to do anything for our betterment but it does mean we should acknowledge this fact when discussing our inadequacies . We should remember that even though many of us are aware of our appalling shortcomings we still need to go through a natural birthing process then things will fall into place. Patches and induced labour can be not only painful but lethal sometimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The US 2008 Elections: a cloning apparatus ( updated)

I know, I know it's not the sequel to the Health in Libya post, but many have emailed me and others have commented to ask about my opinion on the US election, so it's time to insert my token post about these elections :

In another life and another election I complained that we should be allowed to take part in US elections because the person in the Oval Office yields so much power that has the potential to negatively or positively affect the rest of the world.

I also followed and actually tried to makes sense of political parties and candidates.Four years later my disillusion is complete to the point where I do not even follow the elections anymore. Moreover my conclusion in 2004, does not wildly differ from 2008.

Look at it this way, Ms Condoleeza Rice was here a few days ago and apart from a couple of American mums -bloggers living in Libya, I have not seen any Libyan blogger bother to comment about this visit. That should be telling no ? Four years ago I would have written a long post about it....

But I am digressing ...some of my American friends will not be voting because they do not like the choice of candidates available. And although I think it should no longer matter to us in the Middle East who is president -because the policy has never changed at its core- I kept encouraging my friends to vote for the person who will do most good to their economy and internal affairs. However, when someone asked " hey Highlander what do you think of Obama ? I'm sure you are glad there is a black candidate right?" No, I don't care what colour the president is but would it be surprising to say all US presidential nominees and their running mates seem like clones to me.

Too many bloggers and pundits have written about Mc Cain and Obama so I won't bore you about that but apparently the stakes are a bit different with the appearance of Governor Palin on the scene. Her speech was supposedly cathartic. I listened to some tidbits here and while the sound bites resonate well, she also has the oil connection :)

Yet, it does not matter who wins to me, because any would be president or president who pledges allegiance to Israel is a lost cause in my book even if he/she were a member of my own tribe. Newcomer Palin has not escaped this circle and has joined the queue :P. at AIPAC.

The day I see a US candidate not trembling before Israel is the day I know that America is in good hands again because I am not convinced that one needs to stand by Israel to be patriotic.

Oh and don't anyone dare label me as anti-Semitic although you are welcome to share with me with civility where you think I'm wrong/right . Also do not compare democracies and non-democracies or America's system of governance and that in Arab world ( despite it not being homogenous) as that would be off topic.

This was my personal two cents about the topic not that of Libya, Libyans, the Middle East, North Africa, the Arab World or even the Muslim world. All these entities I'm sure have a differing view.

If it sounds pessimistic that's my view lately :P So may the best man/woman win.

Update 12/9/08

Khalid did blog about Ms Rice visit here. My blog reader is not doing it's job of updating my reads properly :P

Friday, September 05, 2008

Five years, Five Ramadans!

Though I've been on blogs since August 2003 it was only in September that I made my first post.. it's been five whole years full of laughter, tears and tough but useful learning processes.

It has also been five Ramadans, and the first week of Ramadan 08 is almost coming to an end already. Mashallah!

Thank you to those of you my friends who have sent me their congratulations that is really appreciated from the heart.

I would like to take the opportunity of this podium to wish everyone a Blessed Holy Month of Ramadan to you and your families.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Health Situation in Libya: Part I cancer

"Every single time they called or I called [Libya] they told me of someone who just died or who is dying. The cause of death is either a car accident or cancer." Laments Sereeb.

For a country of less than 6 million people this statement should raise a thousand red flags!

Sereeb was not the first one to notice this anomaly related to chronic diseases, I pointed out in my previous post that "I have lost six friends to cancer, while another five are in various stages of survival/remission. I have also lost one to a heart attack, and two to car accidents and I have one friend recovering from a stroke." This means at least 11 of my friends have cancer; I have not brought up the neighbours, work colleagues, family members, acquaintances and their families, neighbours etc…thinking exponentially and factoring in the funerals I have attended I would say it is a national disaster.

Before you proceed to my report below please ensure you read and understand this disclaimer: the following is not a research done by scientific methods. I have no hard numbers or statistics to give but only my own personal observations- so please do not use it as a weapon against me or Libyans.

OK – with this out of the way we can move on…

My first observation that something was amiss was when the number of miscarriages in Libya spiraled alarmingly in the mid 80s. From that time up to now I can confidently say that the majority of Libyan married women have had at least one miscarriage during their first year of marriage and before the birth of their first child. This is NOT NORMAL. Notice I said majority – not all! For those who did not have a miscarriage then we need to dig a bit deeper and of course there are always exceptions to the rule. I noticed this first with my aunts who began founding families in the mid 80s. I also noticed that this phenomenon began in the mid 80s onward roughly when the following international issues were unfolding.

o Eldorado Canyon
o The Chernobyl disaster (the fires did last for 10 days)
o The Aozou strip border conflict
o Desert Storm

For the sake of objectivity I would like to add the following factors:
o Social upheaval
o Environmental Pollution

I've read many articles, papers and books and I understand that my story could be criticised as unsubstantiated, but I'm simply searching for a cause not conspiracy theories or a scapegoat.

Two essential things I've noted during the last decades:

(1) Fertility has decreased in Libya, families now average 3-5 kids, whereas before it used to be 6-10. Increasingly IVF pregnancies are sought in Jordan (for the sake of discretion as this is a sensitive topic) Meanwhile Libyan women are showing a range of gynae/obstetric complaints. The UNICEF report gives us the following figures for total fertility rate in Libya: 2006 = 2.8, in 1990 = 4.8 and in 1970= 7.6. Not sure what that means. [ref]

It could be socially related such as marrying later in life of course but not if it is chronic-diseases-related.

(2) Cancer in all forms is widespread but particularly, breast, ovarian and uterine cancer in women, prostate cancer for men and leukemia and cancer of the stomach in both genders. I don't think it is due to improved screening process because we don't have that kind of attitude and culture established yet. Ex: Libyan women in their 30s do not automatically have mammograms or even breast self examination at home.

Basically when Libyans go to the doctor it means it is serious.

Surveillance of non-communicable diseases in Libya and particularly cancer may not yet have been underway. But in 2003 there was apparently a first attempt at collecting such data in Benghazi. The population in eastern Libya is 1.6 million; cancer cases registered in 2003 were 997.[ref]

The annual report from the Secretariat of Health and Environment for 2007 is finally out and it apparently contains a survey of cancer cases registered from both Western and Eastern regions of Libya, but the electronic full copy has still not been loaded to the official website.

A- Social/cultural causes:

National authorities have reported that 13% of the mortality in Libya is attributed to cancer as a result of social and lifestyle changes ( ex : change in smoking pattern and prevalence).

B. Environmental issues possibly due to modernization, sanctions and military ambitions

(1) Water pollution:
"The combined impact of sewage, oil byproducts, and industrial waste threatens the nation's coast and the Mediterranean Sea generally. Libya has 0.8 cu km of renewable water resources with 87% used in farming activity and 4% for industrial purposes. Only about 68% of the people living in rural areas have pure drinking water. The nation's cities produce about0.6 million tons of solid waste per year. [ref]

Potential hazards are detailed here as well.[ref]

(2) Carbon Emission:
Libya has the highest CO2 emissions per capita in Africa on a par with Japan and UK. [ref]

The ILSA act of 1996 most probably had some kind of detrimental impact on these results by preventing investment in the oil sector that could have helped purchase equipment and material to curb this environmental disaster.

(3) The quest for chemical, biological and nuclear arsenals:
Various attempts were exerted since the 80s with Rabta, Sebha and Tarhuna plants being among the most famous along with the Tajoura nuclear research reactor as Dr Joshua Sinai kindly mentions in this now old (1997) but relevant analysis.

Anyway as we know these efforts all culminated in Libya's now famous dismantling of its WMD programme in 2004. However, we can only guess whether these activities have released toxins into the environment. There are no studies to my knowledge.

(4) Agriculture and Aquaculture:
Libya is on the Mediterranean and Tuna is a staple Libyan diet a study in 1997 reveals that the metal levels found in it are not considered toxic. [ref]
I don't understand those results but maybe blogger Maya M can. I'm sure someone did a more current survey.

As for crops, I fear there is indiscriminate and uncontrolled use of pesticides, but that is only my hunch. I've also noted too many plastic houses in farms. As for cattle and poultry I think that businesses are abusing the public trust with the imported cattle feed but then greed and corruption is universal.

For some at a glance statistics which I don't understand, look here,

C. The Aozou Strip:

This "long stretch of desolate land located in the middle of the Sahara Desert [has been a] zone of contention among the colonial powers of Africa, and […] between the now independent and sovereign countries of Chad and Libya". Libya captured it in 1973. "It remained in Libyan hands until a Chadian offensive in the late 1980s. In 1990, the two countries finally agreed to take their dispute to the International Court of Justice, which ruled in early 1994 that the Aozou Strip belonged to Chad." [ref]

We won't dwell on the casualties or the historical ownership for this land which was stupidly given up/left in limbo in the 50s (another story), but the salient question is
"Why would two countries engage in hostilities over a stretch of desert? According to rumors, the Aozou Strip contains rich deposits of uranium." [ref]

This is related to pursuit of military advantage mentioned in paragraph B(3) earlier. On the other hand although the common understanding is that uranium has not been mined yet, but in the proverbial fog of war we have no idea what happened, but what we can be certain of is that uranium is radioactive and toxic.

D. Chernobyl:

Photo source [ref].

Information states that " there is no evidence nor any likelihood of an increase attributable to Chernobyl in birth defects, adverse pregnancy outcomes, decreased fertility or any other radiation-induced disease in the general population either in the contaminated areas or further afield." But it also states that "the lighter material [released] was carried by wind over the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and to some extent over Scandinavia and Europe." [ref]

Yet crops, flora, fauna, milk, water bodies and fish have been contaminated in Europe [ref]

A recent study in 2007 maintains that kids were affected in Sweden because their mental development was impaired in utero. [ref]

Apparently the radiation cloud from the Chernobyl accident was "eventually detected all over the world. Events, such as volcano eruptions and nuclear bomb testings, result in major effluent emission that also can be detected with very sensitive equipment.[…] on the other hand the occurrence of chronic affects may never be validated because such relatively small increments are statistically indistinguishable in the face of the great variability of spontaneous cancer rates." [ref]

D. Desert Storm (the Gulf War):

That's very close in the Near East and what is interesting to know is this bit: " The third and largest phase of the air campaign ostensibly targeted military targets throughout Iraq and Kuwait: Scud missile launchers, weapons of mass destruction sites, weapons research facilities and naval forces.[...]Allied bombing raids were successful in destroying Iraqi civilian infrastructure. 11 of Iraq's 20 major power stations and 119 substations were totally destroyed, while a further six major power stations were damaged.[28][29] At the end of the war, electricity production was at four percent of its pre-war levels. Bombs destroyed the utility of all major dams, most major pumping stations and many sewage treatment plants, turning Iraq from one of the most advanced Arab countries into one of the most backward. Telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges were also destroyed." [ref]

While destruction of enemy infrastructure maybe a standard procedure in war I am left to wonder what sort of toxic material was released from all this and particularly how much. From Iraq to the region needs only a short leap of imagination.

That was before even hearing about the depleted uranium. " They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer " [ref].

In a 2003 article in CS Monitor, I read with shock and awe that " depleted-uranium bullets are made of low-level radioactive nuclear-waste material, left over from the making of nuclear fuel and weapons. It is 1.7 times as dense as lead, and burns its way easily through armor. But it is controversial because it leaves a trail of contamination that has half-life of 4.5 billion years - the age of our solar system."

No comment!

E. Eldorado Canyon
This was an aerial bombing of Libyan cities in 1986 (you can read my rant here).

I'm wondering what was the ammunition; what 'shit' did the bombs that fell on us from the sky contain? this site though interesting and lengthy provided no concrete information [ref]

From the Chernobyl cloud it is clear that meteorological patterns were a contributing factor in the spread of toxic pollutants to Europe, it is therefore easy to believe some material may have been carried from Europe to North Africa or to the Middle East. From space photographs the zone affected is wider than thought. I remember vividly that day in April 1986 as it came not too long after the US bombing over Libya; and the sky on that day was grey and murky even though we had not heard about Chernobyl immediately.

Blogger Shlemazl who grew up in the USSR and is coincidently a nuclear physicist (I think) could be able to help me understand.

Right on the thread of weather and climate, I would like to add that Libya has famous sandstorms whereby "dust from the Sahara Desert can be transported over thousands of kilometres by convection currents, which also cause other meteorological conditions, such as thunderstorms. Because the Sahara, where sandstorms are very common, is a major source of mineral dust, large concentrations of the dust can be found in the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean." [ref]

Hence looking at photos I have no problem imagining what can be carried in these particles whether from the desert or back from Europe. If you look at my photos here from 2006 you will have an idea [ref]

Since military hostilities and industrial accidents (as we know) do have an effect on the environment and this can be compounded by the weather peculiarities and since we are an oil producing country, Highlander became curious about pollution indices in Libya. I could not find much except for a study on the Gulf of Sirte area for levels of radiation. I'm sure it is fine but again I'm not qualified enough to decipher it. Volunteers are welcome.

In conclusion cancer alone in Libya is of epic proportion. I would venture to say it is the number 3 killer and I'm not sure such a large number of cases is normal. I tried to think of all the possible causes but as a layperson and someone not in the field of medicine or research I understand my limitations and accept that I could be wrong but at least maybe it can inspire some thoughts. What I am sure about though is that too many Libyans are dying of cancer.

I believe that Libya's biggest concerns are chronic diseases, with cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes topping the list, while the no. 2 killer are road traffic accidents (RTAs) which are not a 'disease' but which if not fatal can result in debilitating injuries. I will devote a special post to RTAs, meanwhile the next post will discuss Libya's health system and will not be limited to cancer.

Let me know what you think…

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Keep smiling a never ending hope…

Five years ago today I was chatting with my great friend Mahmoud. At that time he was at the intensive care unit at one of the famous hospitals in Amman (Jordan). Mahmoud was having his chemotherapy treatment for leukemia and because he was left with extremely low immunity following this treatment he was vulnerable to the most harmless microbes by our standard. Mahmoud had to spend weeks in a special room where people could only visit him wearing what I would call aeorospace gear or CDC suits. But Mahmoud had a laptop and internet connection and I could keep him company and even see him online. He had his mobile as well but we only used it briefly because it would tire him.

On that day we were talking about his progress and how much he felt better and was only waiting for his blood count to improve to be able to return to Tripoli. He was alone in Amman as usual. He has been going for his treatment there for two years and had finally beaten the monster. I was at the office and I was chuckling at the jokes he was cracking and marveling at his spirit. After all he kept the secret of his illness almost two years and only told me recently before this trip.

I knew Hamoudi from college, we were in the same year and the same study groups throughout the entire academic process because we were classified alphabetically and also by our ranking in class. We shared the same bench, courses, helped each other to study and do homework, and after we graduated we compared notes and met up regularly to catch up on each other. He would call me every time he was traveling abroad, and he would come and visit me upon his return always bringing chocolates and gifts. The only long periods when he did not call were the times he was having treatment before I knew about his battle with cancer. Never once did I hear him complain, never once utter a sigh. In his presence I had immense joy and calmness, and his eyes radiated warmth and sincerity. So we were chatting and as usual I was sending a lot of emoticons with smileys when he suddenly sent me a heart shape. Then he typed that the nurse is asking him to rest and that he will talk to me later. I said good bye and logged off.

About ten or fifteen minutes later Hamoudi sent me a text message "keep smiling ..always!"
I thought of ringing him up but the moment passed as I had a meeting so I rang him after the meeting, but his phone was not being picked up so I assumed it was on silent mode and rang him the next day.. but the next day his phone was closed so I assumed he was doing his usual silent treatment when he wanted to rest and not be disturbed. And I told myself he'll contact me when he comes back home or when he feels like it as usual.
I was thinking to myself that Mahmoud was a wonderful friend and his gentle behaviour and considerate actions let alone his longstanding friendship were not negligible and if he asked me to marry him as he had been hinting about for the last year and as mum was expecting from the stories I shared with her I would accept because he was someone you could trust to build a home with.

A few days later I was at a meeting outside my office and ran into another classmate Aisha. After the usual greetings she asked me:
- Highlander have you heard about Mahmoud?
- What about him I said? I was chatting with him a few days ago he's getting better and coming home soon.
- Oh I'm sorry H, she said, he had a cold and didn't make it..
I was awestruck ..when when did he die I uttered how can he die we were just talking and laughing a few days ago he even sent me a text message here see the date on my mobile! That's the date he died on Aisha said. Suddenly I felt my chest close and the tears welled up inside my eyes, have they brought him ? yes his brother did and they are burying him today in their village. Can we go and attend the burial are you going? who is going? Well his brother informed us and he said that the girls don't have to come because the village is very far and he knows it is difficult for you to drive alone. Do you have his phone number I said ? I want to talk to Hamoudi's brother and check with him are you sure he is dead maybe you are mistaken? Aisha told me she did not have the phone number but will try and locate it and will let me know.

When I went back to my office I was frantically calling our close classmates to ask them and yes most of the guys heard and were going to the burial. But I still could not believe it. Then an idea struck me, I will call Hamoudi's Libya cell phone and if someone else picks up then he is dead for sure. I rang the phone, after 3 rings a voice answered; it was similar to Hamoudi's but more subdued where Hamoudi's was full of laughter. "Hello I croaked my name is Highlande and I am Mahmoud's friend from university is the news true ? " I had a sinking feeling but I still hoped against any hopes until his brother Mohammed shattered my hopes… " yes miss H. Mahmoud has passed away… thank you for your condolences and please as I told all the other girls we do not expect you to be here please your phone call is enough…" but how I said ? It's God's will he replied he had a cold he went to lie down to rest and died in his sleep he was simply too weak..
I hung up the phone and cried and cried silently in my office. He had died alone just after he sent me the sms…and before logging off I had told him goodbye instead of the usual 'talk to you soon'. As if his soul and mine knew already… was he lonely? Did he hurt? Was he afraid ? what were his last thoughts?

It's been five years but his number is still programmed in my mobile I can’t delete it and his last message is there peering at me from time to time. When I feel the world crushing at my sides and the pain unbearable, I scroll way down to his message and read 'keep smiling …always'…even from beyond the grave his words have brought me hope and courage to continue the journey. Thank you Hamoudi you will never be forgotten.

Since we graduated I have lost six friends to cancer, while another five are in various stages of survival/remission. I have also lost one to a heart attack, and two to car accidents and I have one friend recovering from a stroke. The plight of my friends has brought something important to my attention the health situation in Libya, but that dear readers would be the subject of my upcoming post.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Islamophobia ( photo courtesy of this source)

In 1997 Islamophobia was defined as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination" [source]. In 2008 I would say the definition can incorporate harsher terms which are no better examplified than by this 'cartoon' forming the cover of the book Islamophobia Making Muslims the Enemy.

Exhibit 1:

"Martyn Gilleard, a Nazi sympathiser in East Yorkshire, was jailed for 16 years. Police found four nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat. Gilleard had been preparing for a war against Muslims...[..] The Gilleard case went all but unreported. Had a Muslim been found with an arsenal of weapons and planning violent assaults, it would have been a far bigger story.
There is a reason for this blindness in the media. The systematic demonisation of Muslims has become an important part of the central narrative of the British political and media class; it is so entrenched, so much part of normal discussion, that almost nobody notices. Protests go unheard and unnoticed."[source].

I would go so far to say that it is not only entrenched in Britain but in most of the so called West and its western allies , sympathisers and wannabes.

Exhibit 2:

Remember the guy decapitating a fellow passenger on an intercity bus in Canada? A witness described that "the suspect had the victim on the floor of the bus and "was cutting his head off and pretty much gutting him." [source].

What did the authorities have to say ? I've looked at more than 30 news articles about this and all of them where either copy paste of this sentence or a variation thereof :
"Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day called the attack bizarre, but did not discuss details, saying he did not want to jeopardize the investigation." [source 2].

No mention of ethnicity or religion :) is that not strange. Also the disgusting act is labelled as BIZARRE !!! nooo is that the best you can do ? Now sit back and imagine that the murderer was Muslim or Arab or a combination of both :P the language would be more colourful and we would hear no end of it on blogs, news broadcast, international media and even the most obscure media in the West. I can visualise the title. Muslim Terrorist hacks head of innocent bus passenger! and you know what I would be erring on the side of conservatism. In fact I'm am waiting any time to hear that the murderer may have descended x-generation ago from Muslim stock just like Obama ;) ( no I won't get into this cartoon although it is highly relevant).

This is what Islamophobia has come too. !

On one of my trips a few months back (yes I still travel a lot but don't necessarily share with ye folks anymore :P) my eyes hungry for novel things to read were scanning the bookshelves at this store and fell on the cover of a book non other than the one I'm using above to illustrate Islamophobia. That one drawing was the summum in other words the 'sum of all fears'. So I bought the book. Most of what was in it was not news to me but still it was good to see that some people who were not necessarily Arab or Muslims had realised the extent of the problem. I felt no anger and no resentment but only pity tinged with a pinch of disappointment at people who are/have become Islamophobes and are fanning the fires of Islamophobia because they should know better since they have at their fingertips all the options of access to information. Before you come and tell me about the very informative website such as this one and similar hatred oriented propaganda, I will tell you that I do read those too and there are ones of the same calibre where you can switch 'Muslim' and 'Islam' for any other faith, skin colour, football fan movie star:) or anything you wish for on this planet and start bashing them.

"While “Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy” examines images of Muslims in media like TV and the movies, the strength of the book — and its focus — is its collection of cartoons published since 9/11, most of which portray Muslims unfavorably. The cartoons show violent, oversexed males, oppressed females, deceptive foreigners. The cartoonists, the authors argue, frequently conflate terrorist groups or the Taliban with Muslims or Arabs in general. [The authors] attempt to place the cartoons in a historical perspective dating to the Islamic conquests and the crusades. The illustrators, the authors write, “drew on images they associated with Islam, having inherited these conceptions from the Orientalist artistic legacy of the United States, as well as from impressions — perhaps latent — of Islam understood from European history.” [source].

Well as I said I read the book and the most significant paragraph for me was on page 2 of the introduction chapter that as a result of this rising Islamophobia, "Muslims in the West and elsewhere know that now as has been the case since the Era of the European imperialists ruled over most Muslims, what they think about Christians has far fewer consequences than what Westerners think about Muslims". On page 3 of the same book and interesting paragraph also caught my eye :

" If you are skeptical about the notion of Islamophobia, get a piece of paper and brainstorm. Write down, with as little thought and as much honesty as possible, all the words that come to mind when you think of the words "Islam" or "Muslim". What names, places, events, ideas, practices, and objects do you associate with these terms? "

What was the answer of most Americans who took this exercise ? Bin Ladin, 9/11 , Palestinians, jihad, veil, Sharia, Iran, Arabs... why ? because they conclude from the media portrayals that all this negativety must be reflecting the religion and its 'associated cultures'.

I decided to study the answers of my readers to such an exercise -not to root out the Islamophobes from the others ( I already know them anyway) but to compare notes and observe the extent of Islamophobia at play. Two months and 34 comments later and you have all proved my personal opinion.

A- Libyans/Muslims/Arabs :
Peace religion, great culture and civilisation, abused and misunderstood, some attempte dsatire :P

B- Westerners, and other non-Arabs and non Muslims subdivided into several subtypes:
(a) hardcore Islamophobes displaying stereotypical even taunting behaviour; with no intention of making an effort to learn. The ignorance and arrogance demonstrated was appaling.
(b) Plain Islamophobes - whom there is still hope to remedy what I could only call a form of discrimination/racism.
(c) Curious and enlightened individuals, seekers of the hidden truth beyond the obvious, willing to learn and see the other side
(d) People with an obviously multicultural non insular attitude.

I was thinking of answering each and everyone but then I changed my mind. Future posts and world events are bound to turn attitudes around, decrease or increase hatred and dismiss ignorance with knowledge.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Brainstorming "Islam"

Today's post is supposed to be interactive. I would like the dear readers to write down in the comment section as honestly as possible what comes to their minds when they think of the word Islam.

Look forward to your answers

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blogging: identity and self-projection

Once upon a time I was a prolific blogger, but I found myself to have drastically cut down in the last twelve months or so. I am not sure what it is exactly. A mild disillusion, a little weariness perhaps or has the novelty passed. It is not as if I do not have things to talk about and events to try and analyse or simply happy or sad topics to share. Oh boy I have plenty of those! current events, somebody's half sentence or a book I read, constantly trigger ideas. I start a post, collect the links, write down the plan of the arguments and then I stop.. ..simple. I just do not feel like going to the trouble of concluding and publishing it.

I find myself sitting on what I think are hot posts, which have become old news mind you. But I do not care that they are old because the aspect I dissect is not related to their being in the headlines, it is sometimes a rather obscure point that has had an impact on me.
So now I am in the middle of this hibernation yet not really a hiatus phase and no this is not the post where I am preparing whatever is left of my readers (how pompous) for me 'pulling the plug' on Highlander. I just have a lot of things on my mind- more than before - which means even though I read my favourite blogroll regularly yet scarcely comment. Actually I am not sure where this post is heading :) but let us go on.

A few weeks ago while reading Diary of Asoom, I came accross this post, which led me to think about Asoom's question 'does blogging take you away from the real word?'.

She says:"for those of us who are anonymous (or think we’re anonymous), we start our blogs with the intention of having this personal space to “release” and be uninhibited, free from judgment, yet with the comfort of knowing someone out there is listening. But before you know it you become part of a community that’s more real than you thought. You have an identity, it’s a bit different from your real world identity, yet it’s still an identity of yours so I’ll call it your alternate identity. Subconsciously you feel the need to protect your alternate identity’s reputation and create an image of dignity and being well-mannered, similar to the real world."

Another of her remarks that struck me is: "Sometimes I have something on my mind that I can't wait to talk to a friend about but because I ended up blogging about it I no longer feel like mentioning it to that real world friend".

Her fan blogger Quest said he/she started having issues with the commenters allowing their words to get to him. I think this is something which should never happen but does because as Asoom said we wish to maintain the dignity and image of our online identity and so if we are taking blogging seriously and trying to benefit from it we end up reflecting our real life personality and are not really anonymous anymore..hmm this reminds of one of Leilouta's old post ' the stories I could tell'. This is my favourite part:

"Recently, I have been very inconsistent with my posting. I have run into a new dilemma. I have stories to tell but I can’t because the people I told about my blog may read it."

Despite the current malaise, I think blogging has been a great experience as another commenter KJ said "it boosts your creativity tenfold to be exposed to so many different people when in real life we tend to limit ourselves to people of "our own kind"."

I do think that the fact that knowing someone knows you does affect your style and makes you self censor yourself on the blogosphere and because you are thinking of the perfect post you don't share an opinion off the blogosphere until you post it and sometimes you don't even after you post it because if you are passionate about it someone might recognize you one day.

I tried to keep the different tiers of my life separate but I'm not sure it worked very well because sometimes I burn to talk with my other friends about bloggers and blogging and I stop short of blurting it out.

It does help that I know several bloggers now on a personal level and so can decompress with them yet it seems you can't have the best of both worlds :) an interactive diary + a social life online and your offline life.

How do the anonymous bloggers feel about this ?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Those emails you never received

Ever wondered why you get into an argument/polite discussion with a customer, colleague or friend about an email you swear you sent but they swear it never arrived? or vice versa...well stop wondering because the WWW has swallowed it. Yes you are reading me correctly.

"At any given moment, messages throughout the world are lost to cyber black holes, according to new computer science research" [source]

Not content to have to worry about the outerspace black holes now we have the internet, this is scary. Can we also disapear in it as people and then it becomes like the matrix?..hmm I better not think aloud too much.

However, to return to the emails usually it is that very important one you sent to your boss, the one with a tight deadline to clients, the birthday e-card to friends, and the letter in which you profess your love to a friend.
So now you have an excuse when you don't meet a deadline it's those stupid black holes! Not sure if your boss will buy that though.
April fool’s day and the Danish cartoons

You’re probably wondering what have the two in common?

In Libya everything is possible, there was a recent big rumour that anyone called Mohammed and born between 2000 and 2008 is eligible for a one off allowance of 500 Libyan Dinars (about 400 US$). Parents rushed to the municipality to submit their papers and collect the allowance. You can imagine how long the lines were since this is a very popular name in the Arab/Muslim world.

When I was recounted this story I could not imagine what would be the connection between the name and a money allowance if you specifically link it to those dates only? It did not make sense as these dates have no importance whatsoever historically or in any other way. Well there was a lot of business generated anyway for the municipality in terms of duty stamps to be included with each application and also to buy the application forms. Tempers were lost in the crowd, time wasted from production sites. Citizens were further informed that the money would be deposited in their bank accounts in 40$ instalments.

On the second day those people who came back to collect their signed form and others who came to submit their form were surprised to discover that this was an April fool's joke.

I really don’t think that was funny, but also why would someone imagine that money is given for free just because your name is Mo ?

While browsing online today I found the origin of the rumour and how the joke started which makes it a bit easier to understand why people believed this. Apparently the other version was that the Danish government wanted to compensate for the ‘Danish Cartoons’ and devised this way. It was still an April fool’s joke of course. Glad it did not last long.

It is so cruel, sad and irresponsible - NO comment

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

'Secrets in plain sight': every letter counts (updated)

I've always stated that our so called online ramblings do not get by undetected; our voice (s) as bloggers is/are heard in expected and unexpected places... You might wish to check below to be reminded of the importance of your words online whether you are writing about your diet, shoes, opinion on movies or even on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....

"Whether it's developments in Russian politics, the spread of avian flu, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Asia or the technological capacity of enemy states, "there's been a significant shift toward relying more on open-source information [...] The CIA has set up an Open Source Center, based in a nondescript office building in suburban Washington, where officers pore over everything from al-Qaeda-backed websites to papers distributed at science and technology symposiums [...] the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency, are training scores of analysts to mine open sources and giving many of them desktop Internet access. "
[Source : USA Today]

Basically if you don't want your foes to know about something then don't write about it :P; as once something has been uttered to another person it is no longer a secret but enters the 'grey area'. Intelligence and counter-intelligence are thriving online which is how we end up with some colourful and entertaining stories at times

Hey but don't get paranoid now will ya ?

Update 12/4/08

To prove my point along the same vein but this time relevant to Facebook " [Israeli] defense authorities continue to surf the Net to make sure there are no further security breaches." [source USA Today , hattip Sabbah ].

Thursday, February 21, 2008


"I don't like the tone of surrender in your voice.." she said. My soul sister and friend has in fact accurately identified the issue despite all my attempts at deception.
I wonder how long can one keep living a charade?

Never mind, I have an announcement...

Dear all,

I will be away to a place where connection will be a problem. I may be able to check emails but blog will be next to impossible. I hope to return with a happier outlook; the Highlander you always knew and maybe even loved.

To each one of you individually whether you still read me or have stopped a long time ago and just came back now to check, I will say please never be quick in your judgment of others or anger towards others. It is easy to make statements , but it is impossible to retract them and delete a harm when it is done.

Dhafer is looking as usual after my blog until my return inshallah.

Thanks for your patience.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Advantages of lack of internet

The recent storms in Tripoli knocked out my flimsy phone line resulting in no internet.

I don't have enough motivation like before to sit at an internet cafe and check blogs so Dhafer was kind enough to release your comments while I enjoyed the silence...one week with no internet = three books read, 50% more time with family and 100% completion of 'to do list'.

Hmmm maybe I should no longer be connected ?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Leave no Libyan child behind: sequels of non- islamic adoption

A couple of years ago I received a heartbreaking email from an American woman called Shannon.

Shannon’s father was a Libyan exchange student in the 70s and dated her mother and they had a child. Apparently he either did not know his girlfriend was pregnant when he left or knew and could not face his folks back home. Whatever the story Shannon’s parents were in their first year of college, so they must have barely been 18-19 if not younger.

In those days Libya used to send students with a distinction (and others who simply graduated)from high school to American universities and colleges. It probably was a big deal for the guy to actually have a girlfriend and enjoy things he would not normally do at home.
Although a large number of Libyan male students ended up marrying their American girlfriends as attested by the many Libyan-American marriages we have, this guy must have been too young to marry and he probably went back home too quickly being simply an exchange student. I’m not trying to excuse him, but just to put a perspective on what might have happened.

So Shannon’s mum gave her baby up for adoption because her own mother forced her to. It seems that adoption in the US in those days kept the child in total ignorance of who his/her parents are; which is something that Shannon has suffered from heavily. Shannon who did not know her origin met with some racism and bigotry in the USA where she was born and raised American (after all she is half American).
She says : “obviously I was raised in the US but not just the multi-culture US [but]Missoula Montana where there is no culture except native American and straight up white American”. Since I did not want to take her word for it - a simple Google search shows that 93.57 % are white according to this.

I am hoping she was not traumatically discriminated against as I understand that America is a land where racism has been eradicated and any reference to it is vigorously wiped out or punished by the civil society.

I have not done much research on it , though from the Mel Gibson case I have understood that for example Jews have a special standing and anything that would insult them is forbidden because they suffered so much in WWII. Accordingly I assume that other minorities are treated in the same manner and defended just as much as Jews since they are just as important in America, where everyone is American regardless of ethnicity, religion, race or origin. But, this post is not about racism, so kindly don't dare any of you turn it into one, the racism post is in the pipeline but not just yet.

So Shannon wrote to me looking for a friend from Libya to learn about Libya and Islam. I offered her help in finding her dad but it turns out she had found him and her mum too. I was so mad and sad at the same time at how can a Libyan child be raised by strangers and in total ignorance of her heritage, ancestry and religion and where she has no opportunity to make a choice.
This feeling of loss has resulted in Shannon having a messed up life in which she too had to give her baby for adoption as a teenage pregnant mother. But although at least this time her daughter Chariti has a better life, I view it as another Libyan blooded granddaughter lost somewhere in America! Another tragedy . Shannon struggled hard to make a decent life for herseolf. She has started her own blog a while back to come to terms with her story and to campaign for the right of adopted children to know their lineage and biological parents. Bravo Shannon. She also was published and is writing a book.

This is an excerpt from 'Ethiopian poet, playwright and author Lemn Sissay, 39, [who] was raised by a white family in the north of England. Here he tells how his life often felt like an experiment.' [ref] I found it relevant to the topic.

"I remember my mother often saying to me: "Don't look at me with those big
brown eyes." She probably never meant it negatively but it meant that I grew
up with a fear of my own eyes.

Shannon has found out that in Islam ‘adoption’ is different than in the Western world . Basically the children if of known parents keep their surname and are cared of as one of the family (or in an orphanage if there is no family) but always know whom they belong too originally . I think this is better because sometimes people might end up falling in love with their genetic siblings which is incest in many cultures and religions - as witnessed in this much publicised story below:

"Twins who were separated at birth and raised by different families met later and married, unaware that they were brother and sister" [ref 1] .

" if you don't know you are biologically related someone, you may become attracted to them and tragedies like this may occur." [ref 2] And part of the attraction is because you are related so you already like each other a lot without knowing why. A good example is the German couple below which is even worse because they had children:

" Patrick Stübing, an unemployed locksmith, and his sister Susan have had four children together since starting a sexual relationship in 2000. Three of the children are in foster care, and two have unspecified disabilities.
The couple, who live near Leipzig, grew up separately and only met many years later. Their supporters say they will fight until incest is no longer regarded as a criminal offence, arguing that the law is out of date." [ref 3]

Basically I think Islamic adoption law is fairer and more just. You will get a more balanced individual who would not be always racking his/her brain ‘who am I?’ . I mean we already have enough identity problems as it is without adding another dimension.

This story has made me wonder how many unknown Libyan kids there are out there, it has also reminded me how much I get angry when some foreign mothers (mostly of so called Western origin) who finding that life in the ME is not exactly what they had in mind decide to leave and raise their children in the West. They resort to literally 'kidnapping' them because their governments give them immediate nationalities and protection. They end up raising kids who are estranged from their heritage and are simply other Europeans or (Americans). It made me think that my tribal mentality still prevails , kids born of Libyan fathers are first and foremost Libyan, then they can be something else - that's my personal opinion. Of course if the father is not Libyan then they belong to their father’s country foremost.

At this point I would like to say that no matter what was his excuse her father should have done the correct thing and married the woman and taken his daughter back home after divorcing her if she really did not to want a life with him or made other arrangements that would safeguard his own flesh and blood - because sometimes Libyans and other Arabs are accused of kidnapping if they even want their children back home for the summer or in cases of divorce and custody fights [ref 4, ref 5, ref 6 ]- (for the record in my opinion for children of international divorce if the father is Arab they should go back to the father point blank; if an Arab woman on the other hand marries a Western guy then she should weigh the consequence very well! but that's another post so I kindly request we don't overspill about it in the comment section because I will not post the comment).

To get back to the story I would lay the blame more on Shannon's biological Libyan father because he knew the rules of paternity and how important that is for us, while Shannon's mother only did what was normal in her city/country, namely give up the child for adoption as she had no means to shoulder the responsibility nor did her parents want to. After all she was barely a child herself. I am adamant that no child with a Libyan drop of blood should be left out.

Shannon found her dad , but he died in an accident before she could meet him. I wish she had been able to come to Libya and get his surname and proudly wear it because that is rightfully hers even if she was born out of wedlock. I don’t care whether her parents were married or not she still has a right to his name and to the protection of the tribe, she is still our flesh and blood.

Go read her blog it sounds like a movie . I’m proud of you Shannon and hope to see you one day here in Tripoli. You’ve come a long way babe, and it' s good to see you blogging again.
May God bless you and keep you safe. Amen.

PH :) I think she qualifies as a Libyan blogger wa la' ?